Preventative health measures calling for social distancing, staying home and essentially ‘cancelling everything’ in response to COVID-19 (coronavirus) has me really concerned for small businesses, especially businesses in the food and hospitality industry, who rely on people eating out in order to stay afloat.
This is an industry that was already dealing with slim margins and a tough economy even before the pandemic. It is a very serious reality that some businesses may not survive this blow to the industry.
I have a vested interest in this. My parents own a very small Vietnamese restaurant (King Noodle House Pho Hoang) in Edmonton’s Chinatown. After 22 years in business, this past year has been their worst yet. COVID-19 could very well shutter the place. There are many small businesses like my parents’ who may not be able to to stay afloat if everyone stops going out.
I think it’s important to take health precautions, increase hygiene and sanitation practices, educate yourself on the pandemic at hand, and ultimately self-assess your risks before you decide what to do, what to cancel, where to go, absolutely. Please do not view this post as me saying get out there, you’re overreacting. That’s NOT what I’m saying at all. Please view this instead as a reminder that there are really good people who own really good businesses, that are such important parts of our communities, that are facing a very difficult road ahead, and to consider what you can do to possibly help them get through this.
I thought it would be beneficial to suggest just a few things you can do to continue supporting restaurants in particular during this time. Feel free to apply the same approach to other small businesses who need your support as well!
10 Ways to Support Restaurants during COVID-19
1. Buy gift cards
Buy gift cards to some of your favourite restaurants. This helps them right now and when (hopefully) the pandemic is over, you’ll feel like you’re being treated to a congratulatory meal.
2. Dine during non-peak hours
The thing to remember is that it isn’t the food that’s spreading COVID-19, it’s the people. So consider making your reservation during non-peak hours. Dinner is usually at, what, 6 p.m.? Make it for 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. instead. Avoiding crowds is really what the cancelling and social distancing is about, so if you can ensure you’re not in a crowded restaurant, that will help.
3. Ask to be seated away from others
There are some reports of restaurants moving tables around so that you don’t need to sit too close to other tables. Even if they’re not doing this, ask a restaurant if they can seat you away from others. If you ask this, they may take it into their own hands to start doing it anyway. This will help create some of that social distancing.
4. Don’t share your food
This one is hard for me, lol because I love trying different dishes and sharing food when I’m out. But if you still want to go out and support restaurants, a simple way to help reduce risk is not to share food with others.
5. Stock up at local grocers and markets
It really is a surreal experience seeing just how many people are flocking to large grocers to stock up on their doomsday items. Not saying you shouldn’t stock up—I did as well, just in case you’re stuck home for a few weeks, it makes sense. But something I read after the fact was that you could be stocking up at local grocers or farmers markets and producers instead. This could really help them, and you’ll likely avoid a lot more crowds than if you try to navigate the busy major grocery stores.
6. Pick-up or get food delivered
I’m planning to visit a few restaurants over the weekend just to grab some things to go. This works great with local bakeries and cafes. Or lean more on getting food delivered. And ask if the delivery person can just leave the food on the porch so you don’t need to have physical contact with them.
Of course, as with any of these suggestions, there is always still going to be a risk that someone who may be affected might have handled your food or handled your delivery, but food pick-up or delivery is a smaller risk than putting yourself in a crowded space.
7. Ask what the restaurant is doing to address COVID-19
Many restaurants are taking to social media to share that they’ve increased their hygiene and sanitation practices, upping their janitorial services, wiping down areas more frequently. They’re encouraging staff and customers who are feeling sick or have recently travelled to stay home. They are trying to assure you that they’re doing what they can to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Go to these restaurants! Or, if there’s a particular restaurant you want to go to and you’re not sure what preventative measures they’ve put in place, call or message and ask them. This may spur them into taking action if they haven’t yet, or encourage them to try to do even more.
8. Wash your hands—a lot
Especially if you’re choosing to dine out, wash your hands before the meal, wash your hands in between courses, wash your hands after the meal is over, wash your hands when you get home. We are being told that washing your hands is one of the simplest things you can do to help stop the spread of COVID-19, so let’s do this.
9. Give the restaurants social media love
Share their posts. Engage with them. Maybe you are more concerned about going out, or are more at-risk, so you will stay home, but if others aren’t as at-risk, and are willing to dine out, your social media share of a restaurant’s food post might help bring in customers that day. This is a very simple thing you can do that doesn’t require you to leave your home or spend any money.
10. Self-assess, ask questions, educate and make a measured decision
I want to be very clear that I’m not trying to downplay the seriousness of COVID-19.
If you are in a high risk age group, have recently travelled, are more prone to illness, are already feeling sick, or whatever the case may be that might make you more susceptible to coronavirus, please do stay home.
Self-assess. Self-isolate. Stay healthy.
But if you can, think about how you can support these restaurants (and all small businesses) during this pretty scary and uncertain time, in a way that is comfortable and makes sense for you. They need us.
And be sure to educate yourself and stay on top of what’s happening and how to stay healthy: